What Is the Best Lightweight Travel Backpack? 

 September 26, 2022

By  Keith Terrell

When you’re traveling, using a lightweight bag is always recommended. Not only will it be more comfortable; it also prevents pain and fatigue. But with all the travel backpacks out there, many often wonder how to choose the right lightweight backpack.

A good lightweight bag for the weekend can be as light as 1lb., while a backpack for a multi week trip can be as heavy as 6lbs. Look for a travel backpack that is as light as possible, but also durable and spacious enough to securely carry your belongings comfortably as you travel.

women in airport with small backpack

There are also other considerations when choosing a lightweight travel backpack. Read on to  learn everything you need to find the right travel backpack for your trip.

Before going into detail on the weight of travel backpacks, take note that they vary greatly when it comes to materials and size. The bag material has the greatest impact on its weight, and followed by size: travel backpacks range in capacities ranging from 25 up to 85 liters.

Bag Material

Lightweight and ultralight backpacks can still carry a significant amount of weight, which is why they are preferred by many travelers.

These bags are usually made from the following materials:

  • Polyester: This plastic-based fabric is a popular choice for travel backpacks because it’s resistant to wear and tear, durable, dries quickly, and is very lightweight. Given these reasons, it’s easy to see why polyester is widely used in backpacks.
  • Nylon: Nylon refers to a wide range of plastics that are melted down into fibers which are then woven to create backpacks. Nylon is resistant to high temperatures, and it’s also strong, durable, and abrasion-resistant. However, nylon isn’t as resistant to ultraviolet rays.
  • Canvas: Canvas is a popular backpack material, and it can be made from cotton or a variety of different fibers. Canvas is heavy, not making it suitable for backpacks for use longer than a few hours. However, it’s durable and will last you a long time.
  • Polypropylene: Though less popular compared to the other materials, polypropylene is a plastic with a high melting point and has a good resistance to water. It can withstand significant wear and tear, but it’s rarely used as a complete material in backpacks. Polypropylene is commonly used in low-end bag styles.
  • Ripstop: Ripstop refers to a fiber made with a special weaving designed to make it stronger and offer better resistance to wear and tear. Ripstop also has the ability to prevent small tears from spreading, which is why it’s commonly used in applications such as camping gear and hot air balloons. However, many backpack designers integrate ripstop into certain backpack areas. Depending on the ripstop material, it can be water resistant or waterproof, and may be light, medium, or heavy in weight.

Advancements in backpack design have led to the development of high-tech fabrics, which can be seen in some lightweight and ultralight backpack models. An example of this is Dyneema, which is the strongest fiber in the world.

When it comes to the most popular lightweight materials, Dyneema and ripstop nylon are the best choices for being both light and durable.

Denier Count

When shopping for a lightweight travel backpack, you should also consider how strong the material is. The last thing you want while traveling is for your bag to break or tear down during unexpected times. To determine how strong your backpack is, check for its denier count.

A high denier count is what determines a fabric’s strength; it is the primary unit of measurement. When you encounter fabrics with a high denier count, this means they are stronger and thicker. On the other hand, fabrics that have a low denier count tend to be thin, silky, and soft; these are not ideal for a travel backpack. Tough, heavy-duty backpacks usually have a denier count of 400D and above.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big should a lightweight travel backpack be?

It would depend on the kind of trip you are going on:

Plane Travel

If your trip involves airplane travel, you may want to consider a backpacks that are up to 45L in capacity and a maximum of 22 x 15 x 9 inches in size. It should not weigh over 22 pounds when loaded – depending on the airline’s carry-on limitations. A travel backpack that you can carry on in the plane with you will save you hefty luggage fees as well as reduce waiting time at the baggage claim area.

Short Trips

If you’ll be going on weekend road trips or a few days of travel, a backpack ranging in 25 to 40L capacity is just the right size. However, if you don’t plan on carrying your backpack on your body for long periods of time, then you can use a bag that leans towards the heavier end of the spectrum when empty, such as 4 pounds and up.

Backpacking Trips

Backpacking trips usually involve carrying your backpack on your body for several hours in a day, for two weeks or more. When it comes to this type of trip, you’ll want to go with the lightest backpack available, yet one that also has ample capacity for everything you need.

Look for bags that are between the 40 to 50L range; though travel backpacks as much as 85L capacity are available, it is not recommended for backpacking trips because you will only end up being extremely uncomfortable with the sheer weight you have to carry. A very heavy backpack can also cause injury.

What are the benefits of ultralight backpacks for travel?

Ultralight backpacks allow you to travel with minimal belongings, but it starts with the weight of the pack when empty. Ultralight usually means you’re carrying a maximum of 10 to 15 pounds with all your gear which is why it’s important to use a backpack that’s as light as possible.

There are many advantages to this kind of backpack for traveling, though the most important is the fact that you would significantly reduce the strain on your shoulders and back muscles. It would enable you to travel farther and longer without the discomfort of a heavy load, which would then allow you to enjoy your trip much more. Traveling with ultralight packs can also save you money because flights are cheaper when you pack lighter.

Ultralight packs allow for much greater flexibility during travel. Imagine having to pass through a crowded area with a heavy, bulky backpack in tow? These bags allow you to pass through crowds effortlessly as well as easily stash it on overhead bins or underneath your seat.

What is the best way to pack light in a travel backpack?

In order to travel lightly, it’s important to think about how you can reduce the pounds in your backpack. Many travelers invest in high-quality clothing that weigh less, and bring only the items that are essential to your overall comfort and safety during your travels.

Here are other tips to help you pack light:

  1. 1
    Bring only what you need: Clothes can always be laundered or washed when you are traveling, so there is no need to bring too many items of clothing. As a general rule of thumb, you can bring clothes for half the days you will be traveling then wash to reuse.
  2. 2
    Bring versatile items: Always opt for gear and clothing that has been designed for multiple uses. This will reduce complexity as well as weight.
  3. 3
    Roll instead of fold: Travel experts recommend rolling as opposed to folding to save space.
  4. 4
    Light fabrics: Steer clear from heavyweight, bulky fabric. Opt for lightweight material such as polyester and nylon, though linen, cotton, and cotton blends are also good choices.
  5. 5
    Toiletries: Toiletries can take up a significant amount of space in your backpack. The best way to save on space from toiletries is to pack none at all, and use those provided by your hotel. Alternatively, purchase them when you arrive at your destination.

Some Great Examples of Lightweight Travel Backpacks

There are several superior lightweight models in the market that are perfect for traveling. Which, you can compare here with our backpack comparison tool:

-   Osprey Farpoint 40L
-   Kelty Redwing 50L
-   Osprey Atmos AG 50
-   Gregory Zulu 55L

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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